A massive new unpaid work scheme is currently being rolled out which will see young people expected to complete a six month Traineeship with the aim of them ‘progressing’ to becoming an Apprentice.
These traineeships – which have been designed in consultation with employers and are being managed by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), not the DWP - will include a period of unpaid work for private sector employers for up to five months. The scheme is aimed at unemployed young people aged between 16 and 24 with little work experience. According to the DfES however Traineeships will not be appropriate for the ‘most disengaged’ young people who require the ‘intensive support’ of the Work Programme (stop laughing).
The Traineeships will offer English and Maths tuition if needed, and ‘work preparation training’, the latest invention dreamed up by training providers and welfare-to-work companies to fleece the tax payer. But all this will have to be fit in around the unpaid work placement which will make up the bulk of the new scheme. And just in case employers were worried, there is no requirement to provide any vocational training, meaning if a young person is abandoned to stack shelves or mop floors for 35 hours a week on no pay, that’s just fine. Employers will not even be required to pay travel or meal expenses.
Participants on the programme must be offered a job interview at the end of the period of workfare, but astonishingly there is no requirement that this is actually for a real job. Guidance from the DfES merely states that: “Where possible, the young person should receive a real job interview where a post or apprenticeship has become available. However, we recognise that this will not always be feasible and in these cases a formal exit interview with the employer who provided their work placement will help the young person to practice and prepare for future opportunities”
After leaving a six month Traineeship, the DfES hopes young people will then become Apprentices, paid a measly £2.65 an hour for the first year, but there is no guarantee of this either. They could simply be slung back on the dole where they are likely to face yet more workfare.
Whilst Traineeships are not managed by the DWP they have been designed to be compatible with the Job Seekers Allowance rules. This does not mean they are mandatory – yet – but it does mean that young people could be bullied and cajoled into starting a Traineeship with the threat of workfare elsewhere or simply because Jobcentre advisors often lie and pretend things are mandatory when they aren’t.
The ever growing and endless complexity of workfare schemes now mean young people could end up working for months on end and never see a penny in wages or even be given any quality training. This mass influx of unpaid workers into the private sector is likely to have a devastating impact on the wages and conditions of existing workers. It seems that this Government is hell bent on making wages a thing of the past for those under 25 and all low waged workers will feel the consequences of that.
The desperation of this Government to suck up to employers and rig the unemployment figures – young people on Traineeships will no longer be counted as unemployed – is fast becoming farcical. Now it seems that young people will be expected to train to be an apprentice, where they will train again to do a minimum wage job, and when the apprentice ends they will be sent on Work Experience for yet more training. Except there isn’t really any training, just work, for no money, and all too often no job at the end of it.
And even if they eventually get a real job, they won’t be able to afford anywhere to live or any kind of quality of life as wages plummet. This is the future being created for working class children, a future without hope, education, prospects or even the chance of a home. So don’t be surprised when they kick in shop windows to take what little can be salvaged from the neo-liberal hell they have inherited.
The Delivery Framework for Traineeship can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223591/Traineeships-framework-July2013.pdf
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